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Dec. 8, 2010

Vol. 111, No. 5

Notebook

From Princeton's attic

Last glimpse of a novelist

By W. Barksdale Maynard ’88
Published in the December 8, 2010, issue


Department of Rare Books and Special Collections; Manuscripts Division; Princeton University Library. Keys: F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers, Gift of Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan; Snapshots: F. Scott Fitzgerald Additional Papers, Gift of Sheilah Graham. Photograph: Ricardo Barros

What: Seventy years ago this month, F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17 died in ­Hollywood. These snapshots of him ­having fun in spring 1940 with his movie-columnist girlfriend, Sheilah ­Graham, are believed to be the last ever taken of him.  

The end of the Jazz Age brought the demise of his writing career – Fitzgerald’s last ­royalty check was an ominous $13.13. So he traveled west to try his hand at movie scripts (the keys shown here fit his suitcases). Newly sober, he was reading PAW in Graham’s armchair when a heart attack felled him at 44.

“It took 10 years before I could even look at a photograph of Scott,” Graham sadly recalled in 1987.

Fitzgerald might have stayed largely forgotten, except for efforts by alumni including Edmund Wilson ’16 and Arthur Mizener ’30. Andrew Turnbull ’42 had accompanied Fitzgerald to football games in Palmer Stadium in the 1930s and later grieved to see his idol’s face in the casket, “rouged, almost pretty — more like a mannequin’s than a man’s.” Written from the heart, Turnbull’s 1962 ­biography further propelled the late novelist to undying fame.  

Where: F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers and F. Scott Fitzgerald Additional Papers, Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library

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CURRENT ISSUE: Dec. 8, 2010